Saturday, 7 August 2010

The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah

Its not often I remember where I first heard about a book but on this rare occasion I am able to give credit to Simon at Savidge reads for this one and his original review can be found here. Set in an Iranian house which is attached to a mosque this book follows the lives of the three families living there as they go about running the mosque and their other day to day business. Told over two generations starting from the late 70s, Iran itself goes through turbulent times and turns their lives upside down.

That's a very simple synopses but the book is actually quite complex in its own way while not being complicated to read. In fact apart from the first couple of chapters where I had a little trouble placing all the characters (of which there are a lot) I found this an easy and rich read.

I was initially worried that this was going to be quite a 'political' read but it really wasn't. Most of the book is focused on the family's local affairs where they run the mosque, home, bazaar, go on religious pilgrimages, go to school, make carpets etc. It is through these day to day activities where the reader slowly learns about this family's culture and way of life and how the political unrest will eventually affect them, also interwoven within this are Iranian poems, songs and stories from the Koran.

This book is sometimes told in a fable like manner and then towards the end of the book there is also some historical fiction brought in, making this book hard to define, but its certainly not predictable. The author does not let his own agenda get in the way of how the characters think or behave (the story is set in quite a conservative part of Iran) and the author never informs the reader whether something is right or wrong, he simply tells the story.

Would I recommend this? Yes, aside from the wonderful story which is told through generations, there is also an insight into Iran's way of life and modern history.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess

About the author – I should mention a little about the author. Kader Abdolah is a pen name created in memoriam to friends who died under the persecution of the current Iranian regime was born in Iran. While a student he joined a secret leftest party fighting against the dictatorship and wrote for an illegal journal. In 1988, at the invitation of the United Nations, he arrived in the Netherlands as a political refugee. He now writes in Dutch.


  1. I remember seeing Simon's review, as well as a few others, that put this on my wish list. It sounds great so I'm glad you enjoyed it as well!

  2. This sounds like something I would enjoy. I've never heard of the author before, but he sounds like an interesting you know if his books in Dutch have been translated into English?

  3. Amy - its worth picking out if you come across it, certainly something a bit different.

    Zara - LOL well I cant read Dutch so this one has certainly been translated into english. I think a few of his others have as well.

  4. Phew! I am pleased that you like it, I always worry when I know someones read a book that I have recommended (not that I think that it would be just down to my review, I would never think that) so thats a good sign.

    I thought it was a really unusual book and very different from anything I have read before or since, I would really like to read more of his work.

  5. This one sounds fantastic!

  6. Ooh this sounds like my kind of book! I haven't read many books set in Iran.

    I get a lot of recs from Simon too - he's very bad for me (or should I say, bad for my bank balance)!

  7. Simon - ah yes I have to admit I think ahhhhhhhh when someone actually buys a book I like just in case they hate it.

    Shannon - I think book blogs in general are bad for bank balances, I have certainly never had a TBR list so long before.